Monday, May 14, 2018

Treating Fiction as Sacred

I recently discovered the amazing podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, and it has taught me about an entirely new possibility for interacting with fictional works, i.e. treating them as sacred.

So what does this mean? Essentially, it has to do with taking a text seriously in order to examine what rewards it has to offer. This doesn't mean that the text or the creator are considered in any way to be perfect, but rather it's more about applying a certain rigor and ritual to a text in order to enhance our understanding. The podcasters explain that a text is made sacred not by any inherent value, but by having a community of readers that treat it as such. How cool is that!

And if you're wondering whether or not you have to be religious in order to apply this practice, you absolutely do not. It has nothing to do with your individual religious beliefs, or lack thereof, but it has everything to do with carefully reading and considering a text in order to learn what hidden blessings the story can offer us.

Each episode, the podcasters give a close examination of a single chapter through a chosen theme, kicking off their conversation with a related story from their real lives. As they discuss, their goal is not to critique the text, but to take the text as written and to see what they can learn about that week's theme from the choices the characters make. They then apply a spiritual practice to a section of the chapter to see what other new understandings can be revealed.

This podcast has given me permission to talk about something that I've always known to be true: the fact that books like Harry Potter have had a profound impact on my life. I think too often, especially as readers and writers of middle grade fiction, we are told by society that the literature we love doesn't matter, that it can't be taken seriously or that it simply doesn't have any true literary merit because it was written for children. How wrong the critics are, and I think this podcast pushes the discussion even one further, not only saying that literature for children has merit, but also validating the idea that it can offer real benefits and blessings for our lives.

The challenge that I'm going to undertake after listening to this podcast is to go out and find other texts that I can treat as sacred and to see what I can learn from them. My challenge for you, if you haven't done so already, is to head on over to Harry Potter and the Sacred Text and give this awesome podcast a listen.

At the end of each episode, the podcasters offer a blessing for one of the characters in the chapter they've just examined. At the end of this blog post, I would love to offer a blessing for the creators of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, Vanessa, Casper and Ariana. Thank you for introducing me to a new way of interacting with my favorite stories. As a reader and a writer, your podcast has really helped me to more thoroughly understand the impact that stories can have on our lives. Thanks, and keep up the good work!

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